3 Ways Saudi Arabia Is Abusing Human Rights – and How They're Getting Away With It

June 29, 2016


Amnesty International is calling for Saudi Arabia to be suspended from the UN Human Rights Council – here’s why.

1. Crackdown on activists

Saudi Arabia has continued a sweeping crackdown on human rights activists. All of the country’s prominent and independent human rights defenders have been imprisoned, threatened into silence or have fled the country. More and more have been sentenced to years in prison under the country’s 2014 counter-terror law. Among the many people imprisoned is Raif Badawi’s lawyer, Waleed Abu al-Khair. Scores more were jailed under the law after unfair trials in 2015 and 2016, including human rights defenders Dr Abdulkareem al-Khoder, Dr Abdulrahman al-Hamid, Issa al-Hamid and Abdulaziz al-Shubaily, all founding members of the now disbanded independent Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA).

2. Horrendous execution spree

Since it was elected to the Human Rights Council, Saudi Arabia has carried out a horrendous execution spree with at least 350 people executed since November 2013. This includes the mass execution of 47 people in a single day this January, including Shi’a cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. Now awaiting execution is Sheikh Nimr’s nephew Ali al-Nimr, who was arrested following his participation in protests and sentenced to death for offenses committed as a teenager. The court appears to have based its decision on a “confession” Ali said he gave under torture and other ill-treatment.

3. Evidence of war crimes in Yemen

The country has led a military coalition carrying out a devastating air bombardment campaign in Yemen. More than 3,500 civilians have been killed and 6,200 injured in the war, the majority by coalition airstrikes which have struck civilian infrastructure including health facilities, schools, factories, power facilities, bridges and roads. Amnesty International has found that such strikes have often been disproportionate or indiscriminate and in some instances they appear to have directly targeted civilians or civilian objects. Such attacks could amount to war crimes.

…And they get away with it, in part because they’re protected by their allies

Saudi Arabia’s allies put economic interests and security links before human rights. They refuse to publicly criticize the country, effectively giving it a free pass to do what it wants. They also shamelessly back the Kingdom’s repression in the name of the so-called ‘war on terror’. Both the UK and US governments are providing weapons, logistical support and intelligence to the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in Yemen.

Despite all this, Saudi Arabia still sits on the UN’s Human Rights Council, a collection of 47 states responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights around the globe. Right now, it’s cynically using the Council to protect itself from further scrutiny.